Now, in winter, when the trees are stripped of their foliage, the bark on their trunks shows clearly how greatly trees expand as the seasons come and go.
On most of the trees around us...maple, oak and ash...the bark splits to allow the tree to grow. The birch in my front yard has no such vertical cracks that heal to a textured roughness. Rather, it expands with the growth of the tree. When the bark finally snaps, it makes ribbons of thin bark that flutter in the wind and sometimes float down like feathers.
What I admire most about trees is that they continue to grow until they die. All creatures change from day to day, but all change is not growth. Decay, too, is change. The botanists tell us a tree grows as long as it lives, each day adding to its height and breadth. Its roots continually probe the earth for moisture and sustenance while the limbs draw light and energy from the air and sun.
The Psalmist said of the righteous man, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water." The expression is apt, for a chief characteristic of a tree and of the life of faith is perpetual growth. Growth comes from a certain openness...a porousness, like the roots of a tree that absorb nourishment from their surroundings. Growth rises from
hospitality to beauty, truth and goodness that are not our own, making them into our own. This means careful consideration of viewpoints that are new to us and differ from ours. It means a willingness to be disturbed, upset, changed All conversion...and all growth...starts here.
We grow when our spiritual income exceeds our spiritual expenditures. Growth in spiritual stature and strength is encouraged by association with other people who are also seeking to grow, just as trees are strengthened and stabilized and stimulated by intertwining their roots with the roots of neighboring trees. We grow as we improve our habits, substituting good ones for bad.
The holy habits of regular, set times for meditation, private devotions, public worship, writing notes of encouragement, making visits that bring cheer and help to others...all of these, and more, add to our stature.
We may feel sufficiently tall while standing back to back against our neighbors. But let us stand face to face with Jesus and we will recover our spiritual perspective. Come meet Jesus this Sunday at your local church. "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25, NIV